If making it to the Class 4A state basketball tournament is the best way to end a high school career, then six Eudora High seniors have earned their shot.
“They’re awesome kids,” Eudora coach Ryan Luke said of his seniors. “I can’t say enough about them. That’s what’s made this so fun for me is that they have an opportunity to play in the state tournament. There are not very many people that can say they’ve been able to do that. So hopefully, we get to keep it going, and they have more to talk about when it’s all said and done.”
Luke’s senior-led Cardinals will take on No. 2-seed Concordia Thursday in the Class 4A state basketball tournament. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. at the Bicentennial Center in Salina.
The six seniors complement each other on the basketball court. Senior post player Haley Epperson is Eudora’s top player, averaging 14 points and seven rebounds a game. Senior guards Bailey Scott and Rachel Pyle give Eudora (16-7) two threats from the perimeter. Senior forwards Mariah Webb and Kendal Abel give the Cardinals energy and hustle, and senior guard Tianna Dunnaway handles the job of pushing the Cards during practice.
“It’s all about the team,” Dunnaway said. “It’s a team sport, anything to help the team out. Even if I’m not out there playing, I still try to make practice as good as it is.”
Epperson said a key reason for the Cardinals’ success this season was that the players knew each other’s strengths.
“I think that makes us such a great team,” Epperson said. “When we combine everything together, it really works out.”
The last two years, the EHS girls advanced to the sub-state title game and lost. But Eudora’s 42-25 win against St. James Academy in the sub-state final last Saturday at Eudora High erased those memories. Now the girls have an opportunity to make new memories at state.
“We’re just going to have to play our toughest,” Webb said. “We’re just going to have to go out there and play scrappy and just try our best.”
“Scrappy” is how the Eudora girls play basketball. It is a word that the players and coaches say a lot. The squad may not be loaded with elite athletes, but it is made up of hard workers and is led by its six seniors.
“I’ve never a coached a group like them as far as their dedication and their willingness to do what I ask them every day,” Luke said. “So I really appreciate them.”
Luke added that the group’s selflessness on the court was just one of the reasons the No. 7-seeded Cardinals could play on Friday and Saturday as well.
“Everybody has their job, and I think they understand that and they really play together,” Luke said. “I think they’ve really been playing together as of late. So if they continue to do that, we can have a fun weekend.”